Another Study Suggests GLP-1 Meds Could Ease Alcoholism

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Key Takeaways

  • Weight-loss drugs might help treat alcoholism

  • Semaglutide decreased odds for becoming alcoholic or relapsing into alcoholism by 50% to 56%

  • Clinical trials are needed to prove the effect

TUESDAY, July 2, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Cutting-edge weight-loss drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic can help treat alcoholism, a new study says.

People taking semaglutide had 50% to 56% decreased odds for either becoming alcoholic or relapsing into alcoholism, researchers reported recently in the journal Nature Communications.

Few drugs are now available to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), so adding semaglutide to their number would provide a much-needed extra option, researchers said.

“This is very promising news in that we may have a new therapeutic method to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD),” lead researcher Rong Xu, a professor of biomedical informatics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, said in a news release.

Semaglutide helps regulate blood sugar levels, and was first approved as a diabetes treatment. The drug also reduces appetite and slows digestion, which eventually led to its approval as a weight-loss drug as well.

For the study, researchers analyzed medical records of nearly 84,000 patients with obesity, as well as about 600,000 patients with type 2 diabetes.

In both sets of data, researchers found consistent reductions in alcoholism among people treated with semaglutide.

“While the findings are promising and provide preliminary evidence of the potential benefit of semaglutide in real-world populations, further randomized clinical trials are needed to support its use clinically for AUD,” study co-author Dr. Pamela Davis, a research professor at Case Western, said in a news release.

Semaglutide might be effective against alcoholism because GLP-1 -- the hormone regulated by the drug -- also is involved in the dopamine reward system triggered by drinking, researchers said in background notes.

“Parts of the brain that drive eating behaviors overlap extensively with the drive to use alcohol or other substances,” Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, clinical director and deputy scientific director with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a news release.

More information

The National Institutes of Health has more on semaglutide and alcohol use disorder.

SOURCE: Case Western Reserve University, news release, July 2, 2024

What This Means For You

Alcoholics might one day be able to help quell their cravings by using semaglutide, study results indicate.

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